Covid-19 wrap | China slams US 'barefaced lies', how the dead are counted, and virus-related syndrome in children causes alarm

2020-04-28 14:05

Keeping you up to date on the latest novel coronavirus (Covid-19) news from around the world.

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US politicians 'telling barefaced lies' over coronavirus pandemic: China

Beijing has accused US politicians of "telling barefaced lies" over the coronavirus pandemic that has swept the globe, after US President Donald Trump threatened to seek damages from China for the outbreak.

"They have only one objective: shirk their responsibility for their own poor epidemic prevention and control measures, and divert public attention," said foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang at a press briefing on Tuesday.


Coronavirus: the difficult process of counting the dead

The daily count of fatalities of the Covid-19 pandemic, whose official toll has now passed 210 000, is a sensitive business, with data often incomplete and differing methods between countries.

Germany, Luxembourg, South Korea and Spain count all deaths of those who have tested positive for Covid-19, whether they take place in hospital or elsewhere.

In Belgium, where care homes have officially accounted for more than half the deaths, the figures include even people who have not been tested, but are suspected of having been infected.

France also counts deaths in care homes, which make up more than a third of the number.

Other countries, such as China and Iran, only count deaths in hospital in their daily tolls.

That is also the case in Britain. More complete figures are published every week by the Office for National Statistics, but with a time lag of 10 days, and these figures do not include deaths in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

In Italy, which has Europe's highest official death toll, only the biggest retirement home hotspots are accounted for, according to the Civil Protection.

In the United States, which has the highest death toll in the world at more than 50 000, the counting method varies from one state to another: while New York counts deaths in care homes, California does not.

Some countries, such as Belgium, Britain, Italy, Luxembourg, South Korea and Spain include in their figures all the people who have tested positive for the coronavirus, even those who died of complications from a pre-existing condition. Other countries are more selective.

Iran excludes from its toll patients who have tested positive but die of another serious respiratory illness.

In the United States, there are an increasing number of complaints from people whose relatives have died, officially of pneumonia, before Covid-19 tests became available.

In Germany, no distinction is made in the statistics between those who died directly from Covid-19 and those who could have died of a pre-existing condition, or the two combined.

That lack of differentiation has been a bone of contention between the national institute which oversees epidemics and some of the country's regions which presented lower death tolls because they carried out autopsies in order to determine the precise cause of death.


Spain reports drop in daily coronavirus death toll

Spain on Tuesday recorded a slight decrease in the number of daily coronavirus deaths with the government set to unveil plans to relax stringent lockdown measures in place since mid-March.

The number of fatalities rose by 301 to 23 822 in the previous 24 hours, compared with Monday's increase of 331, the health ministry said.

It is the fifth consecutive day that the number of daily fatalities in Spain - which has the world's third-highest Covid-19 death toll after the United States and Italy - has been below 400.

Officials believe the epidemic peaked on 2 April when the daily toll hit 950.

"The evolution has been very fast in terms of the number of dead and that is good," health ministry emergencies co-ordinator Fernando Simon told a news conference.

Spain's nearly 47 million people have since 14 March lived under one of the strictest virus lockdowns in the world, with only adults authorised to leave home to buy food, medicine or walk the dog.

The lockdown was prolonged last week until 9 May but Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez is expected to later on Tuesday outline how he will ease the restrictions.

Already on Sunday kids under 14 were allowed out for the first time to go for a walk, a run or a bike ride accompanied by one parent.


UK raises alarm over virus-related syndrome in children

Britain's health minister said on Tuesday he was "very worried" at signs of a coronavirus-related syndrome emerging in children but stressed it needed more research and remained very rare.

The state-run National Health Service (NHS) issued an alert at the weekend about a small number of children presenting an unusual set of symptoms, including abdominal pain and inflammation around the heart.

They have required admission to intensive care, according to a report in the Health Service Journal.

"I'm very worried about the early signs that in rare cases, there is an impact of an auto-immune response in children that causes a significant disease," Health Secretary Matt Hancock told LBC radio.

He added: "It's a new disease that we think may be caused by coronavirus and the Covid-19 virus."

But Hancock said that while some of the children who have this new disease tested positive for the virus, others had not.

"We're doing a lot of research now. What I would also stress is that it is rare. Although it is very significant for those children who do get it, the number of cases is small," he said.

The Guardian newspaper reported that there had been at least 12 cases.

According to the Paediatric Intensive Care Society, the NHS alert warned of common overlapping features of toxic shock syndrome (TSS) and atypical Kawasaki disease and blood parameters consistent with severe Covid-19.

TSS is a serious illness associated with infections while Kawasaki causes blood vessels to become inflamed and is mostly found in children under the age of 5.

The national medical director for NHS England, Stephen Powis, said on Monday it was "too early to say" whether the new disease was linked to coronavirus but the issue was being looked into urgently.

England's chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, said it was "entirely plausible" that it was linked to Covid-19.


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